Fāgogo is an oral account told at night after a day’s chores; it was something special to look forward to as a Samoan child. The fāgogo was often told in the dark while you were getting ready to sleep, so the listeners were often required to call ‘Aue’ to signal you were awake and listening. The call also voiced your appreciation for the storytelling and the narrator. Fāgogo were told in many cases by older women. Sometimes the sung part of the fāgogo that was performed by the elderly voice not only made one’s imagination traverse the universe of the Samoan spiritual world, but also held one’s attention. The vivid emotions were often of wonderment, enjoyment and at times, fear of the supernatural, effects achieved through the spoken and the sung word pictures. The effect of this powerful medium resulted in not only the closing together of little bodies in case the aitu (ghost or spirit) might come at night in one’s sleep, but also the confirmation of the world that was Samoan in essence. Learning the language through listening to fāgogo is based on a medium that is natural and culturally powerful.
Galumalemana Alfred Hunkin
Former Programme Director,
Samoan Studies, Va’aomanū,
Victoria University of Wellington
The Samoan fables presented here are among a large collection recorded in Samoan in the 1960s by Richard Moyle1 as part of a survey of traditional forms of music. Their present value on this site is more for their linguistic content than their musical features, because they are intended to allow the student of Samoan language to learn as a Samoan child primarily does – by listening.
The site allows you to learn in three stages.
Although the stories have no titles as such, they have been assigned names here for ease of reference, and are graded in terms of their vocabulary, speed and clarity of delivery. From easiest to hardest, these are:
These fagogo were transcribed and translated by Richard Moyle and checked by Galumalemana Alfred Hunkin.
1 Richard Moyle, Honorary Research Professor, Centre for Pacific Studies, University of Auckland
Adjunct Professor, Queensland Conservatorium of Music Research Centre, Griffith University.